“Blockage of Life”
The Palestinian Jordan Valley
The heat in the Valley reaches 36 degrees centigrade.
Brutality of military maneuvers – again, 200 families Palestinian are evacuated from their homes for 24 hours.
Fires are started by the army to prevent Palestinians from grazing their flocks.
Maale Efrayim Checkpoint
Unmanned in the morning, manned in the afternoon.
Passengers remain in the cars as they cross in both directions. This is a significant relief in the horrendous heat that has descended on the Jordan Valley these days. But the cars are inspected, one by one, even when Nablus-bound, driving into Palestinian-controlled areas.
Forced evacuation – the suffering inflicted upon hundreds of humans as a result of the Israeli army’s war games is indescribable, and intended apparently to make them leave. About 200 families received evacuation orders from today at 6 p.m. until tomorrow at 4 p.m. All the areas near the road leading to Tyassir and the Checkpoint – Al Maleh, part of En Al Hilwa, and the area east of Alon Road (no. 578), Samara, as well as Ras Al Ahmar – west of the Alon Road, parallel to Bekaot.
These days are sizzling hot. The Palestinians say “Al diniya nar” – The world is on fire. The sun bakes the earth and one can hardly breathe. And out of all possible days, now is the time they choose to expel people – women, the elderly, sick people, and children, along with their livestock – from their homes, to sit without any shelter in the sun for a whole night and a day. This isn't the first time – in recent months, inhabitants of Al Maleh and Ras al Ahmar have been evacuated every two weeks. But this time,
because of the extreme heat, is particularly brutal. The Palestinians watch many of their sheep to die.
It is hard to view this misery and the fear of what awaits them in these 24 hours. They clasp their hands and repeatedly ask, “Shu binsawi?” What are we to do? Some hours before the evacuation, we sit wi
th the elderly couple who in January, and before that in December, lost their home to the army’s demolition action – and we have no words for them.
I have contacted the OCHA office and was told they know and have tried to persuade the army to let
the people stay, but in vain. They will bring the people water!
The novelty now is that Palestinians east of the road, in Samara, were also evacuated. The army told them it intended to fire from there towards the western side of the Alon Road. And we ask – if it’s dangerous to the point that people have to be evacuated from their homes, will the road be closed off too, the road that serves mainly Jewish settlers? Or do Jews have some kind of intrinsic special protection?
The single consolation is that the army has created an opening in the dirt dyke that separates the Jordan Valley from the hilly West Bank area, in order to deploy tanks and troops westwards from the Alon Road, and contact between the inhabitants of Hadidiya, Humsa and Makhoul and their life-center in the West Bank is now totally open.
North of the Jewish settlement Ro’i we saw an charred area of a few hundred square meters, around the army base “Sea’ra”. On our way back we witnessed the mountain southeast of Hamra Checkpoint in flames – a huge, thickly smoking fire (we were told it has been on fire for the past three days). Around the Jewish settlement of Mekhora we also saw hundreds of square meters up in flames, up to the periphery of the settlement and its fruit tree groves, as far as the eye can see. All is black, the color of the arsonists’ soul. Evidently these are controlled fires where the safety of the settlements and army camps are well looked after. The army is burning all of these areas in order to prevent Palestinians from letting their flocks graze. As if stealing all their water and denying them the possibility of tilling their fields were not enough. As if it were not enough to deny them access to most of their lands. Herds of sheep and goats are these farmers’ last resort, but the grazing area is meager and as the summer desiccates it, the Palestinians wander on and on in search of a bit of greenery. But the occupier will not grant them even this, and burns the sparse vegetation in order to prevent even this minimal source of existence. (see photos).
Translator: Charles K.
No effort is made to open the checkpoints at a set time.
Those manning the checkpoints are still refusing entry to people who don’t appear to be dressed in a manner “appropriate” to a Palestinian fellah.
06:10-07:00 People may cross through the A’anin checkpoint only if their clothes are dirty.
It’s quiet, silent. There are indications that soldiers are at the checkpoint, but no one goes through. That lasts until 06:30. Inspections were conducted in the middle of the checkpoint, behind the main gate. Only 20 people went through by 07:00, at a very slow rate. Those exiting said the computer was down and information was being recorded by hand. Well – that explains everything.
The mistreatment continues of people claiming they’re on their way to work in the fields but are dressed too cleanly. A female soldier with a well-developed sense of fashion sends home those she thinks are dressed too elegantly for manual labor. That seems to her very suspicious. It’s clear that the Palestinians have already developed ways to outwit her and the MPs’ fashion decrees. Neta spoke to the soldier on duty at the DCO about delays in allowing people through; I spoke to him about the clothes – but the soldier, despite his willingness to help, didn’t really understand who I was, what we’re doing at the checkpoint, why aren’t they allowing us through, and are we really sure that the military police are picking on Palestinians because of the clothes they’re wearing…
07:10-07:25 The Shaked checkpoint also awakens slowly.
Here too they opened late; a line of little children and adults formed on the seam zone side, and of laborers on the Tura side. Crossing began at about 07:15, calmly, everyone knows what’s allowed and what’s forbidden, only holders of crossing-permits show up, so what’s not to like? Why should any problems arise? What a successful occupation.
07:25-07:50 Yabed-Dothan checkpoint
The side road to Yabed that turns off the main road to Jenin is blocked to cars by a heavy yellow iron bar, one of the occupation’s earmarks. In addition, a military jeep was parked there, apparently to prevent people from going through on foot.
We arrived at the checkpoint and here, too – life had come to a halt. Cars waited on both sides while the soldiers conducted some kind of attack/defense exercise, ran around with their weapons, fell to the ground, kneeled, squinted and aimed, etc. Finally they gathered around a low-ranking officer who apparently summed up their fling and went on his way. And then the crossing opened; traffic flowed in both directions without delays while we were there.
08:00 Reihan checkpoint
We drove by without entering this large, busy checkpoint. Seven commercial vehicles waited to have their loads inspected. The parking lot is jammed. Few people were in the fenced corridor leading up from the terminal.
Naomi Gal (translating)
[On the way to] Bethlehem - Checkpoint 300, the Old City: since Obama's visit to Bethlehem was intended for noon we thought it might be possible to approach the checkpoint. Already at the intersection there were many policemen, Border Guards, and a blockade.
I parked close to the monastery and walked up to the checkpoint. Just a few meters before the entrance to the checkpoint astonished policemen stopped me and could not comprehend how I got this far, how come I wasn’t stopped at the intersection.
They said there is no one at the checkpoint at this time, and that it has been closed since morning to Palestinians and to everyone else. The checkpoint will be opened in the afternoon, at 16:00.
Back to the intersection - a lot of cars, apparently belonging to the American delegation, many policemen.
Driving to Damascus Gate - all the way many policemen and within the Old City multitude of Border Guards.
Translator: Charles K.
We entered through the Meitar crossing and drove to Umm Faqra to leave large sacks of clothing that had been collected, and candy for the children. We saw the progress Fadel had made constructing his house. One room is already being used; there are windows and mattresses along the walls. They’re still working on the second room. We gave M. an envelope with the money we’d all donated. Everyone’s invited to contribute, so that Fadel will be able to install windows and finish building. We drank tea, gazed at the lovely landscape and drove on.
While we were driving we received a call from Nasser, from Sussiya, who asked us to come visit and talk – so we drove back to Sussiya. Nasser, who works for B’Tselem and speaks Hebrew well, sat us down and told us about the problems:
The village of Halat-a-Daba, near Umm Faqra, received stop-work orders, which will be followed by demolition orders.
A month ago a court hearing took place regarding Sussiya; an outline plan was submitted and they’re waiting for approval. The army was given 90 days to explain why the residents should not be permitted to build. There are 60 cisterns belonging to Sussiya in the surrounding hills but the army has taken over the area and if anyone comes they’re arrested and bail is set at NIS 1000-NIS 10,000.
The European Union helps underwrite water purchases from contractors in Yata and in Hebron; it’s brought in tanks by truck or tractor. The price – NIS 35 per cubic meter – is very high! They asked the Civil Administration for access to their cisterns. The reply: “You’re illegal.” Nasser: But all the outposts around here are also illegal according to Israeli law.
Who helps them? Organizations like Rabbis for Human Rights, Machsom Watch, groups from abroad; the German Foreign Office donates money for construction.
The school building in Sussiya – grades 1-4 – received a demolition order.
The village appears well-organized, compared to what we’d seen in the past. There’s a building used as a clinic and for local municipal council meetings. All the rest are sheds of various kinds.
In the distance, on a hill outside the Jewish settlement of Susya, a new prefab was erected yesterday, illegally!
Translator: Charles K.
Photos from the archives:
1. The remnants of an encampment belonging to a family with five children that the IDF demolished, October, 2012.
2. An earthen berm blocking Jordan Valley Bedouin from moving westward.
3. The Gochia checkpoint – a locked iron gate in the middle of nowhere blocking a dirt road used by Jordan Valley Bedouin.
Tomorrow (4.3.13) the army will conduct maneuvers in the Hamam el-Malih area. All the residents were ordered to evacuate their encampments for 24 hours with their children, the elderly and their flocks. In other words – they were sent to spend the night outdoors. It’s very cold in the Jordan Valley during this time of year. This is a new phenomenon in recent months in the northern Jordan Valley. It happened to the residents of Hamam el-Malih about a month ago; tomorrow will be the second time.
Only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the police eventually come to court. The remaining 97% of the cases are closed, even when there is incontrovertible evidence. Thus the State’s Attorney collaborates with the police, backing the racist policies as part of what’s known as “justice for all” and “equality before the law.” That’s what we learned from “Yesh Din,” which has been following up on the vicious beating last year of M., a member of the D family, last year by D., the military security coordinator of the Rotam settlement.
11:15 Za’tara checkpoint – Tapuach junction
Two loaded trucks detained in the plaza. Another commercial vehicle has been detained and is being checked by a dog. ID cards are taken for inspection. The driver of the commercial vehicle has (apparently) been sent for interrogation by the Shabak on the other side of the white wall at the northwest side of the plaza. An additional car was detained while we were there.
We’ve already seen delays and interrogations of young men at this junction a few times, and heard from those interrogated that the Shabak tried to recruit them.
We gave a ride to a hitchhiker who was born in the Gitit settlement (established in 1975). He said his parents, secular people from Tel Aviv, were sent by state institutions to settle there, were given a house and land at no cost, along with all they needed to farm. He doesn’t view himself as a settler, and it’s clear to him that the Jordan Valley must remain part of Israel forever, for security reasons. We asked about the price of water: NIS 6 /cubic meter for household use, NIS 2 for agriculture. For comparison: K., the Bedouin, pays NIS 20 per cubic meter for water which he gets from water tankers, not via pipes. In Israel we pay more than NIS 9 per cubic meter for household use.
The fields of Gitit settlement, which are worked by two Israelis (one from Tel Aviv and one from Tayibeh) are covered with plastic sheeting. A spectacular sight.
12:30 Hamra checkpoint
A settler from Hamra followed us to the checkpoint, photographed us from every angle and cursed us rudely. Two reservists from the checkpoint came over to see what the trouble was and he disappeared.
13:00 Tayasir checkpoint
Reservists here as well. Very sparse traffic.
The K. family
The four families from Hama el-Malih whose encampments were demolished last month are still living out in the open or in improvised sheds far from their previous place of residence.
About a year ago M., one of the family members, was terribly beaten by D., the Rotem settlement’s military security coordinator, and was hospitalized for two days. A complaint was submitted to the police, with the help of Yesh Din. It now transpired that the police closed the case even though there were witnesses to the beating.
A few months later that same military security coordinator shot and killed three of K’s cows and buried them. They called the police, which found the slaughtered cows. There were witnesses to this incident as well, and this case was also closed.
Yesh Din told us that’s what usually happens, that only 3% of the complaints submitted by Palestinians to the Israeli police reach the courts. The police and the State’s Attorney collaborate to ignore Palestinian complaints against Jews. Racism has penetrated every organ of the Israeli regime. Jurists are also part of the rot. Yesh Din plans to appeal the closing of the case involving the beating. It will take two years for the appeal to come before a judge.
We gave a ride to a laborer who’d finished working for the day in the Ro’i settlement. He earns NIS 85 for an 8-hour day (about half of the Israeli minimum wage), with no benefits. NIS 10 goes for transportation. Since the residents of the settlements are Israeli citizens, Israeli labor laws apply to them, including minimum wage laws, but who’ll enforce them? And so the Israbluff about the only democracy in the Middle East continues. It’s not surprising that the settlers hold on to what they’ve got – where else could they get such wonderful conditions? Even workers from Thailand are paid more.
16:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint
No soldiers here at this hour either.
Translator: Charles K.
14:04 Curve 160, Hebron
We stopped because we saw a gathering of paratroopers, Border Police, police, including officers, a police vehicle, a settler vehicle, two settlers. One of the settlers said shots had been fired at the checkpoint. Those present appeared to be engaged in consultations or an investigation. We waited. The senior paratrooper, Avi, the Hebron brigade commander (religious), said he’d explain to us what was going on after he completed the investigation. He also questioned the settler off to the side, who seemed to have been an eyewitness. Then the settlers drove away in their vehicle. It turned out that a Palestinian youth set off about 30 fireworks directly toward the checkpoint from between the concrete barriers along the side. The brigade commander was very critical of the way the force at the checkpoint behaved – “they didn’t try to make contact; they should have gotten him.” I said to him, grinning, that it was probably because there were no female soldiers there… He also said that a police vehicle that passed by also didn’t catch the shooter. Bottom line – a failure. We should note that Palestinians kept going through the checkpoint during the investigation. We also note that everyone involved behaved politely toward us, except for one of the policemen – maybe the one who’d just been reprimanded by the brigade commander.
14:30 Tel Rumeida
A conversation with Issa Amru, the Palestinian who runs a neighborhood cultural center in the building above Beit Rumeida. He’s an electrical engineer; he teaches courses dealing with electricity. Issa is a model of non-violent resistance to the occupation by, among other things, strengthening Palestinian civil society. Michael, Tzipi’s son, lived and worked there with him for a while.
The building belongs to a family holding a blue ID card which has a house in East Jerusalem; they moved there at the beginning of the second intifada. The army turned the house into a fortress for a while. After the army left, settlers entered, but the building was in very poor condition and not habitable despite their wish to take possession of it. Finally Issa rented it from the owner, but the settlers didn’t let him move in; he received legal assistance from Michael Sfarad, the attorney. The driver transporting the settlers’ children was caught in the yard with a gun; he’d planned to fire into the building. The water pipes were sabotaged, a couch was set on fire, abusive graffiti was sprayed on the walls, rocks thrown. Boys and girls once exposed themselves before the residents, claiming that if the onlookers are gentiles the Torah permits.
Hebrew classes for women are offered there, at the women’s request, and also English classes. Na’ama, from Psychoactive, comes from Jerusalem to teach. Friendships have developed, including mutual family visits. There are spare time activities for children, doll-making. There are classes in still and video photography, how to upload to Facebook, to document their daily lives, their dreams, not only the problems with soldiers and settlers. Palestinian volunteers teach journalism courses to activists. The Association for Civil Rights helps teach legal subjects such as the rights of detainees – Limor Yehuda and Gabi Laski. They show films. Girls learn English, and also the samba (drumming, not dancing…)
The security forces back up the settlers: the land adjoining Beit Romano is privately owned by a Palestinian, the settlers are nevertheless building there and the new structure completely blocks an adjacent Palestinian house. It’s no surprise; why, in the base on the main road soldiers and settlers live together. Issa reminds us that, according to international law, civilians living in the base become legitimate military targets. The settlers at Tel Rumeida regularly violate Israeli law. They raise horses and other animals, plant crops and trees and refuse to leave the Al-Bakri house despite a High Court order. The army and police claim they’re unable to stop them. The security forces’ support of the settlers explains the recent decrease of settler violence against Palestinians – they don’t have to be violent as in the past because the security forces are essentially doing what they ask.
The powerlessness of the police: Only two policemen, with one vehicle, are stationed in Hebron, in the area for which Israel has full responsibility. The Palestinians know that the policemen stationed in Hebron keep requesting transfers. An Arabic-speaking policeman told Issa that the police are not allowed even to issue citations to settlers for traffic violations – driving without lights, transporting more than the permitted number of children, not wearing seat belts, speeding, etc. And the police certainly don’t defend the Palestinians even though they’re fully subject to Israeli sovereignty. Saturdays and Jewish holidays are the worst times – performances, thefts, uprooting trees. Even when the settlers invaded the building they call Beit HaMachpela, the police claimed they didn’t see anything.
The case of the spring below Tel Rumeida: Anat Cohen had dreamed it was a holy site and the settlers continue to take it over and build around it despite the Turkish land registry ownership document possessed by the Palestinian owner of the land. His complaints to the police about trespassing do no good. When he tried to dismantle what the settlers had built the police made him put everything back and submit another complaint.
The case of the Abu Ayesha family: They used to live in Beit Hadassah. Before 1929 they were partners with Jews in a business making yogurt. During the riots they protected their Jewish neighbors and other Jews, and the account of their heroism appears in Sefer Hevron. Instead of receiving gratitude they were forced out of their home to Tel Rumeida, but the settlers took that over as well and their home is fenced for protection like a cage. Their story became known when they photographed a female settlers yelling “bitch” through the window bars at the woman of the house. The old man still living with them says he knows Jews; these settlers aren’t Jews… His sons, who live elsewhere, aren’t able to visit him without a special permit. Nor are they even able to obtain a permit to renovate the crumbling interior of the old house. Another family that saved Jews in 1929 is convinced that the settlers, not Hamas, are the ones destroying the state of Israel.
The importance of video documentation: Channel Two accompanied Baruch Marzel’s election campaign in Hebron (he was number 3 on the “Otzma LeYisrael” list). Issa ridiculed him before the cameras for not dressing in a dignified manner as befitting a Knesset member. Marzel invaded Issa’s home and hit him in the face. The video showing that Issa didn’t even hit him back wasn’t any help – the police backed Marzel and accused Issa of attacking him even though the police know him and are aware he never behaves violently. In another incident, when soldiers were jogging as usual in Hebron, a Palestinian was arrested because it was claimed he hit the soldiers; he spent a month in jail until the judge agreed to watch a video documenting the incident that proved the soldiers had beaten him, not the opposite – and although the man was released the soldiers weren’t punished. Another incident: One day Issa went through a checkpoint and a soldier called him a “motherfucker.” Issa berated him, saying that unlike the curses he gets from settlers, who are private individuals, a soldier in uniform represents the state. The argument with the soldier got worse when Rav Levinger’s daughter-in-law happened to come by and accused Issa of sexual harassment. A crowd gathered, the Nahal commander in Hebron pushed him against the wall and threatened him. Issa told him he’s recording everything on his cellphone, and everything’s being recorded on video. Issa was arrested and insisted on providing the evidence – the cellphone recording – only to a policeman, not a soldier. But the policeman gave the cellphone to the soldier who erased the recording. The military police investigation of the incident will probably take forever.
The “security requirements” excuse is a lie: Fact, Marzel entered Issa’s house to hit him, knew there were many men in the house; had he feared for his safety he wouldn’t have done so. Another example: When Dov Hanin came to Hebron as part of his Knesset election campaign, Issa wanted to march with him in the street. The police didn’t let him. He walked in parallel instead on the wall of the Moslem cemetery bordering the street and called down to them from above – Where am I more dangerous? When I’m above you, or when I’m walking beside you?
We returned via Tel Rumeida. We saw the neighboring Palestinian house that the settlers didn’t succeed in taking over; they’re “only” throwing garbage into its yard. Next door is the house the settlers did manage to take over and aren’t leaving despite the High Court decision, and then the caged-in Palestinian home whose residents, the descendants of the Righteous Gentiles from 1929, live in fear every day. A bored Border Police soldier up the road plays with two settler toddlers, teaching them to climb a fence and giving them marching drills.
16:15 Below the Eshtamoa outpost we see construction underway to expand the settlement. Then a caravan of decorated Palestinian cars drives toward us, apparently celebrating the release of Palestinian inmates. A van with Palestinian license plates passes, slogans in Hebrew – Shalom Haver, Ahava LaNetzah. The flow of laborers returning from Israel flows through the Meitar crossing; a bustling vegetable market awaits them on the other side on their way home.
Punishment of a man who insulted a female soldier, caused a halt in the passage of people so that all of them could not go to work.
The children's buses went through with no problem.
06:15 'Azzun 'Atma
There are a lot of workers outside, despite the forecast of rain . There are about 60 people standing in line, but the checkpoint is functioning efficiently and, a little later, when we timed a man who arrived, he went through in 10 minutes - a record time for the early morning. All this is despite the fact that the soldiers are operating the gate leading to the inspection booths, something which decreases the activity of inspection, or rather, it decreases the speed of the line.
Garbage is beginning to pile up next to the shed which had been erected for those waiting in line on the "Israeli" side of the checkpoint. Since there isn't any garbage can, one can't blame the people going through.
The checkpoint is still not open and the soldiers seem to be carrying out the opening of the gates; one can hear a conversation from the gates, but they are not opened and this situation continues for a long time. Once in a while, there is a loud argument, but it takes a while until Thedesa - an officer from the DCO whom we called to report the problem – calls us back with an explanation. When the female military police officer arrived to open, one of the Palestinians was rude to her, insulted her (so she said) and she sent him to the end of the line. This angered those waiting and they decided to hold a strike - not to go through - and they also didn't allow people who did want to go through to do so. This went on for a while, and occasionally there were arguments in tones reaching high decibels. One soldier almost started a fistfight with the Palestinians, but his friends restrained him and moved him from the gate area. There was a feeling that there could be an explosion. The two sides remained stubborn in their positions, and our request from the DCO to send someone to work out a solution came to nothing.
At 08:20, the soldiers closed the passage (08:15 is the official closing time), and that was the end of it. Except for one couple, rather elderly, whom the strikers allowed to go through, no one else entered Israel.
The evening guards from the nurseries, as well as buses of children on the way to school, were allowed to go through into Palestine without delay. A small number of the workers (according to their employees who were waiting next to the gate) returned and came out though the Eliyahu Gate.
08:30 There are still people standing around the gate and talking, apparently evaluating what had happened, and who know what else. The soldiers went on their way in a rental car with the symbol of their unit on it.
When someone insults a female soldier, is she allowed to carry out an educational project? Clearly she thinks so; and she is the one who rules and decides at "her checkpoint".
Translating: Ruth Fleishman
1. The checkpoint is closed
2. Today is Family Day
The right traffic lane at the vehicle checkpoint was closed to buses and from the entrance came three armed soldiers. With a rifle on the shoulder and a grenade in the hand they slowly walked, looking for kids who were throwing or planning to throw stone.
"Earlier there were about three kids that threw stones", people said.
But by then these children were not to be seen and no stones were being thrown. And in spit it, the passage remained closed and the soldiers kept walking back and forth for about half an hour. And the number of bus lanes was reduced, traffic became heavy and the usual traffic jam grew long and thick.
The fact that the closing of the lane before hundreds of people is nothing short of collective punishment, which is illegal, didn't bother any of the checkpoint commanders or the any of the men in uniforms who received reinforcement from police and BP forces.
While talking with some friends about the faith of Ahmed, the Falafel salesman whose trial is to commence in a couple of days, I was told that he was being accused of throwing stones, but that the date of event was not the day of his arrest. "The army tricked Ahmed", one person said and another added: "They can do anything, because this is occupation". I concurred. "Until you've lived for five days in the refugee camp, you can't understand what 'occupation' means", said H.
He is right.
Until you've lived for five days in the refugee camp, you can't understand what 'occupation' means. It's been five years since I've been to the other side of the wall.
Translator: Charles K.
On Thursday, 17.1.13, the army demolished 12 Bedouin encampments at El Malih in the Jordan Valley. Bulldozers destroyed the tents in which the families lived and the sheep sheds, then loaded them onto trucks and left them on barren ground. Since then they’ve been living in the open, in the rain and the cold Jordan Valley nights.
On Saturday, 19.1.13, peace activists tried to come to express solidarity with them (in two buses) but the army closed the entrance to the road from Highway 578 (the Alon Road) all day. A truck that came from the west with tents for the residents was stopped at the Tayasir checkpoint and the army confiscated the tents.
The residents hesitate to re-erect tents, afraid the army will demolish and destroy them again.
09:45 Za’atara/Tapuach junction checkpoint – No inspections.
10:00 Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint – No soldiers. Two private cars with Israeli plates parked at the checkpoint. That was also the situation when we returned.
The cultivated fields between the settlements of Gitit and Mechora – These broad fields belong to the Gitit settlement which leases them to various people along with the generous water allocations they receive from Mekorot. It looks as if the settlement received more land and water than it could handle so it makes money from the resources it received for nothing or for almost nothing. While at the same time the Bedouin are expelled from their lands and refused water for household use and for agriculture.
We spoke this time to people working for one of those leasing the lands, an Israeli from Tayibeh. The workers are from Aqraba (Palestinians from the West Bank). They said they weren’t allowed to enter the Jordan Valley through the Ma’aleh Efrayim checkpoint. That’s strange, because there are now no restrictions on entering the Jordan Valley. They were forced to walk a very long way through the hills. Since then, they’ve been sleeping there. Someone brings them food for NIS 30/day, which is deducted from their daily pay of NIS 80-100 (they aren’t all paid the same amount). But it’s still worth it to them to work and walk a long way through the hills because it’s hard for Palestinians in the occupied territories to earn a living.
10:55 Hamra checkpoint – Very sparse traffic.
We saw soldiers training all along the way, also with live ammunition, very near the shepherds and their flocks, and also near the K. family’s encampment, about 200 meters away.
Hamam el Malih – We visited two encampments that the army had destroyed ten days ago. At one we found N., a handicapped old woman, and her two granddaughters. She showed us the remains of the encampment and the sheep pen. Now they sleep in a tiny shed left from the demolition.
At the other we found only signs of destruction. The people had fled down to the wadi.
We met Amira Hass there, people from B’Tselem and representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
13:30 Tayasir checkpoint – We chatted with a few particularly nice reserve officers.
15:30 Tapuach junction/Za’tara checkpoint - Two Palestinian taxis detained in the fenced plaza, the drivers’ IDs taken to be checked on the computer. They were released shortly after we arrived because the computer wasn’t working. We couldn’t stay to see whether the Border Police are again sending people to be interrogated here by the Shabak, as we’ve seen in the past.
Summary: more house demolitions, more life destruction, “voluntary transfer”
11:45 – Ma’ale Efrayim Checkpoint – unmanned.
12:15 – Hamra Checkpoint is manned by reserves soldiers. Two of them approach us as soon as we appear at the junction. They are friendly to us. From the Palestinians we hear they are much less friendly to them… A Palestinian with whom we conversed was then questioned at length and checked by the same soldiers as he wanted to cross the checkpoint Nablus-bound.
So far, and for a long time, Palestinians on their way to Area A were not inspected here. They just had to wait for the soldier’s hand signal to advance and then crossed without any further ado. Now every third car is stopped, IDs are checked, doors opened, the cabin rummaged, crates are unloaded for inspection etc. The process is slow and waiting lines of over 8 vehicles accumulate during each such inspection.
Cars traveling from the hills of the West Bank down to the Palestinian Jordan Valley are inspected but there is no passage restriction – after all the passengers disembark and are forced to cross the checkpoint on foot. And provided no one is wanted for a “Shabak interrogation”.
Close until the next army maneuvers when some tank will crush it again.
House demolitions: we received a phone call informing us of demolitions which just took place in the Jiftlik village and at Hamam Al Maleh. In the Jiftlik 3 homes were destroyed and one animal shelter (according to OCHA reports).
At Hamam Al Maleh we met an elderly couple whom we have known for years now, standing helpless amidst torn plastic sheets and aluminum rods bent out of shape and useless, next to an empty square space that was obviously a dwelling, its earthen floor straight and neat. Now it’s empty. A week ago, on January 17th, there were massive home demolitions, among which the tent dwelling of the couple was destroyed. Their children have long since left the area, and two of them – a son and daughter – now live in Israel. Two days later, on Saturday, January 19th, the Occupation authorities imposed a closed military zone order for several days. After the order was rescinded, the Red Cross brought some tents to the site. Today, before we arrived, the army simply crushed and took the Red Cross tent and all of its contents – the scant possession of this elderly couple. So they wouldn’t be able to recover their lives, God forbid. It’s been hours, the couple stand next to the wreckage – no tent, no belongings, and apparently no one left to help them. The woman has visibly aged years in this recent week. Her arm is fractured (she fell) and very swollen. No money for medical care, nor for medication. How will they get through the freezing night without a roof over their heads or a mattress under their bodies?
Five months ago I was stuck next to this encampment – my car wouldn’t start, and I waited for two hours in the scalding heat of midday to be towed away. The whole time this same woman ran back and forth from the family's stove with a tea pot, begging me to drink so as not to get dehydrated. Now, I had no way of helping her in this predicament.
The typical sights of torn plastic and bent rods and piles of personal effects and papers are repeated time and again. But the bent back, the lost gaze, the tear in the corner of the eye are unbearable. You look for words of consolation, something encouraging, and find none, for you do not know what it’s like to suddenly find yourself exposed in the world, in summer heat or the frost of winter, aged or a child – the world stops and no one is there to help.
Next to the debris of this encampment, east of the stone house at Hamam Al Maleh is a new encampment. About10 tents and new sheep stalls. We inquire – there are some of those who were expelled from a higher site nearly in early January (see report of Jordan Valley of January 3rd, 2013) for a single night during a military maneuver, and decided to remain here where they camped, even after they were allowed to go back. Luckily, perhaps, because most of the encampments in the area of the maneuvers were destroyed by the army on January 17th.
On our way home we see numerous soldiers arriving at the area, disembarking from buses.
16:30 – Ma’ale Efrayim – unmanned.
Late addition: January 27th, 2013 – I receive a telephone call from X ( I have his name and telephone number) – two days ago metal stakes and other building materials were taken off a pickup truck traveling from the Tubas area. The soldiers threw them next to the entrance of the army base and they are still scattered there. No Palestinian dares approach and retrieve these rare materials.
Today the soldiers did not allow a resident of En Al Beda (northern Palestinian Jordan Valley) to cross with his tractor because he was carrying animal feed. They told him: Either leave the feed here or drive back to Tubas. And where would he get feed for his livestock? All the produce that the Valley inhabitants consume comes from the central West Bank.